Cash Policy: Debts owed to telecom firms by commercial banks may increase – Stakeholders

The cash scarcity and implementation of the revised daily cash withdrawal by individual and corporate bank customers by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that has fuelled resort to the use of electronic channels of transferring cash may soon shoot up debts owed to telecom firms by commercial banks over the use of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), it was gathered.

The debt, which stands at over N80 billion, has continued to worry the telecom operators who say it is a significant cash which could be plough back to making the infrastructure more robust as Federal Government’s policies take toll on revenue generation.

“Yes, we expect the debt to increase significantly on the crest of the implementation of the cashless policy of the CBN which has seen an equally significant rise in the number of our customers taking advantage of the ease of the channel to send money to their customers for business transaction and also send cash to their loved ones across the country, So, we see the debt going up to N100 billion within the next few months,” a source in the industry said on condition of anonymity.

Worried by the development, the operators had last year warned of possible service support withdrawal to commercial banks over the debt.

Acting under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the group said the debt remained a cause of worry why despite the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami and others, the banks refused to pay the debt which has risen to over N80 billion.

Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, in a telephone interview, said the major threat to the policies of the CBN is the refusal of commercial banks to pay the service providers the money they have deducted from customers for services provided using the telecoms infrastructure.

“The big elephant in the house is the USSD debt which has now reached N80 billion in spite of the ministerial interventions. One day, we will get to the point where we will operate the no pay, no service policy. This will no doubt frustrate the entire industry. It is one major threat to the cashless policy because, no matter how long it takes, one day, we will implement our commercial terms,” he said.

He assured the subscribers of the readiness of the telecoms operators to continue to expand infrastructure to make end user experience better, he nonetheless said the operators will withdraw support for transactions that ride on the USSD platform.

Reacting to the development, the President, National Association of Telephone, Cable Tv and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ACTIS-Nigeria), Sina Bilesanmi, frowned at the refusal of the banks to pay what is due the operators.

According to him, the association had opposed the use of USSD for transactions in the banking sector but had had to bow to superior argument.

He said if the telecoms operators make good their threat, it is going to affect members of his oragnisation with membership strength running into several millions.

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